Should the verb be plural or singular in a sentence "The set of steps include[s] ...". Because set is something that can include something else, it feels to me that it should be includes, but since my emphasize is not on the set itself an is on the steps, it seems to me that it should be include.

  • 1
    Think about it this way: Imagine that it was a bag of oranges. Would you say "The bag of oranges is" or "the bag of oranges are"? That should help you understand whether it's includes or include.
    – stangdon
    Jul 30, 2018 at 16:51
  • @stangdon - the question isn't clarified by that comment; the same logic that the querent is applying in this question applies to your analogous question, with no change whatsoever. Jul 31, 2018 at 11:19
  • @JeffZeitlin - That's the point, though. If the OP understands that "the bag is", then the same logic can be applied to the original question.
    – stangdon
    Jul 31, 2018 at 11:32
  • @stangdon - In ELU, I'd agree with you, and wouldn't have made the comment. In ELL, however, I have to assume that there's a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic concept, until proven otherwise - so I can't assume that the querent understands 'the bag of oranges is/are..." any more than he understands "the set of steps includes/include...". Jul 31, 2018 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


A set of steps takes the third person singular as a verb, i.e. :

The set of steps includes...

A set may include many different parts, but there is only one set which causes the following verb to take a singular construction.

If you have more than one set of steps, you would have sets of steps, which would take the third person plural, i.e.:

The sets of steps include...

If you want to talk about a single set of steps, but really want to use the plural construction, then don't talk about 'the set of steps' and simply talk about 'the steps'. You can now say:

The steps include...


"The set ... includes ..." is correct; a set is a singular object. Had you written "The steps ...", include would be correct; the steps are plural.

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